B.J. Upton spent the first week of the season on the disabled list following winter shoulder surgery and hit just .204 with two homers, 60 strikeouts, and a measly .587 OPS in 45 games through the end of May. Everything changed for him once the calendar flipped to June and Upton's hot stretch continued Sunday as he tied career-highs with four hits and four RBIs in a win over the Mets.
Upton is now hitting .330 with three homers, six doubles, 13 runs, and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month while going 11-for-13 swiping bases. He's also struck out in 22 percent of his plate appearances after whiffing 28 percent of the time through two months and as usual Upton has drawn walks in bunches. He's still sporting a sub-.700 OPS, but the time to buy low is clearly disappearing in a hurry.
While the Rays score double-digit runs for the 11th time in 71 games to increase their MLB-best total to 401, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* CC Sabathia was yanked from Sunday's start against the Marlins in the second inning with left biceps tendinitis. Sabathia wanted to remain in the game and said afterward that he plans to make his scheduled start Friday against the Mets, but manager Joe Girardi expressed less optimism about his status. For now at least no MRI exam is planned and he's slated for a bullpen session Wednesday.
Sabathia has just 70 strikeouts in 102 innings after racking up 251 in 253 innings last season, but his fastball velocity is actually up slightly compared to 2008 and prior to Sunday's abbreviated start he was 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 45/15 K/BB in his previous eight outings. Phil Hughes would likely get the nod to replace him if needed, but Sabathia will no doubt try to pitch through the injury if possible.
* Barry Zito had a season-high with eight strikeouts Sunday against the Rangers, missing that many bats for just the fifth time in 79 starts with the Giants. Zito had 205 strikeouts during his first full season in 2001 and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings through the age of 24, but has failed to reach 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings in any of seven seasons since then.
However, after eight strikeouts in seven innings Sunday his strikeout rate is up to 6.8/9 for his highest mark since 2004. Zito's average fastball was under 85 miles per hour in 2007 and 2008, but his velocity has improved to a 86.5 mph this year and he's again having tons of success with his amazing curveball. Since two bad outings to begin the season Zito has a 3.85 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 74 innings.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau's league-high streak of 319 straight games ended Sunday because of "general soreness" … David Ortiz homered Sunday for the fifth time this month after going deep just once through 46 games … Mike Lowell missed his second straight game Sunday because of soreness in his surgically repaired hip … Kevin Millwood had a season-high 10 strikeouts Sunday, but took a loss while allowing three runs … Gil Meche came into Sunday with 16 straight scoreless innings and a 3.31 ERA, but was rocked for nine runs … Mark Buehrle tossed seven shutout innings Sunday, improving to 7-2 … Denard Span (ear) is expected to come off the disabled list when eligible Thursday … Evan Longoria broke out his June slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles Sunday … Ricky Romero hurled his fourth straight Quality Start on Sunday … Dallas Braden cut his ERA to 3.26 with seven innings of two-run ball Sunday.
NL Quick Hits: Albert Pujols homered twice and drove in six runs Sunday, giving him an MLB-leading 26 long balls and 68 RBIs … Ryan Howard homered as a pinch-hitter Saturday, but returned to the hospital Sunday and saw his MLB-high streak of 343 straight games snapped because of the flu … Cole Hamels struck out 10 and allowed just two runs in eight innings Sunday, but took a loss … After giving up 25 runs in his previous five outings, Wandy Rodriguez allowed one run on two hits over seven innings Sunday … General manager Dan O'Dowd denied Saturday that Brad Hawpe is being shopped … Geovany Soto homered Sunday for the fourth time in June after going deep just once through 40 games … Khalil Greene homered Sunday for the third straight game, but left with a bruised leg after being hit by a pitch … Troy Tulowitzki notched his first three-hit game of the season Sunday and also added a walk.